Total Equality Management

When the Thinkers50 first saw the light of day in 2001, there were only two women (Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Meg Whitman) on our ranking of the fifty best management thinkers in the world.  By 2009 there were five; in 2011 there were 11; in 2013 there were 13; and 14 in 2015.  We anticipate there will be more when we announce our new ranking in 2017.

Currently, at number three in the ranking (with writing partner Chan Kim) INSEAD’s Renée Mauborgne is the highest placed woman. Also in the top ten are: Harvard professor Linda Hill (6); leadership guru Herminia Ibarra (8); and Rita McGrath from Columbia Business School (9).  Ten more women make the top 50: Amy Edmondson (16); Teresa Amabile (20); Lynda Gratton of London Business School (31); Sylvia-Ann Hewlett (32); Tammy Erickson (35); Stanford’s Jennifer Aaker (36); Liz Wiseman (43); Nilofer Merchant (48); Whitney Johnson (49) and Amy Cuddy (50).

In addition, Rachel Botsman picked up the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award for her championing of the idea of Collaborative Consumption and the Sharing Economy. Our 2015 Radar Award also went to a woman for the third consecutive time, with Erin Meyer, author of The Culture Map, the recipient.

Of course, none of this is good enough.  The world of business ideas is still a largely male world.  It is a pale, male reflection of the corporate world. “The stark truth is that most corporations are still built by men, for men, to sell stuff to men,” reflect Jonas Riderstralle and Kjell Nordstrom in their contribution to a new Thinkers50 book Dear CEO.

But there are reasons for optimism that the sexes will be more fairly represented in our future rankings.  The new generation of management thinkers includes a swathe of brilliant women.  Think of MIT’s Kate Darling; Carol Fishman Cohen of iRelaunch; Ellen MacArthur championing the circular economy; Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School; Amy Webb on the future; Kate Sweetman on leadership; Deborah Rowland on change; Margarita Mayo on authenticity.  The list is impressive and growing.

“Women are being liberated by the new, open era. Women are the great-unsung power in our societies, on our workforces and in our organizations. Women now hold more wealth than ever in history and work for pay in unparalleled numbers. So, you and your company better get ready for the world of womenomics!” promise Riderstralle and Nordstrom.

Throughout July we will be celebrating the very best women management thinkers from Mary Parker Follett to Nilofer Merchant.  The world is changing and they will change the world.

Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove
Thinkers50 Founders



Our most recent selection of the thinkers likely to shape the future featured a number of women thinkers. Look out for the work of:

Ayse Birsel (

Co-founder and creative director of the award winning design and innovation studio, Birsel + Seck.  The Turkey-born, New York-based designer is the creator of Design the Life You Love (Ten Speed Press, 2015), a book and coursework that teaches non-designers how to create a meaningful life using her design process. This process is labeled Deconstruction: Reconstruction (DE:RE). Brisel was identified by Fast Company as one of the world’s most creative people.

Zoë Chance (@zoebchance)

A professor at the Yale School of Management, Chance examines persuasion and decision-making through the lens of behavioural economics. Her research findings have been published in top academic journals and her 4Ps Framework for Behaviour Change is the foundation for Google’s global food guidelines, helping 60,000 people make healthier choices every day. Her TEDx talk on influencing behavioural change is called “How to make a behaviour addictive.” She formerly worked in marketing for Mattel, creators of Barbie.

Carol Fishman Cohen (@iRelaunch;

CEO of iRelaunch, Fishman Cohen consults to corporations on career reentry strategy and programming. Her return to work at Bain Capital after 11 years out of the full-time workforce is documented in a Harvard Business School case study. Her article “The 40-year old intern” was selected for HBR’s 90th anniversary celebration of articles that made the biggest difference to readers’ lives. Her TED talk “How to get back to work after a career break” has been viewed over 1.4 million times and translated into 27 languages.

Kate Darling (@grok_;

An expert in robot ethics, Darling is a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. Her work explores the emotional connection between people and life-like machines and anticipates difficult questions that lawmakers, engineers, and the wider public will need to address as human-robot relationships evolve. She is the intellectual property policy advisor to the director of the MIT Media Lab.

Susan David (@susandavid_Phd;

David is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital. She is the author of Emotional Agility (Pengiun, 2016), which Harvard Business Review rated as one of its Management Ideas of the Year. Originally from South Africa, David has worked with senior leaders in a variety of organizations, including the United Nations, Ernst & Young, and the World Economic Forum.

Heidi K. Gardner

Author of Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, (HBR Press, 2017) Gardner’s work focuses on leadership and collaboration in professional service firms. She is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and faculty chair of the school’s Accelerated Leadership Program. Previously she was a professor at Harvard Business School.  She has lived and worked on four continents, including as a Fulbright Fellow, and for McKinsey & Co. and Procter & Gamble.

Francesca Gino (@francescagino;

An award-winning teacher and researcher, Gino is a professor of business administration in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit at Harvard Business School. Her research focuses on judgment and decision-making, negotiation, ethics, motivation, productivity, and creativity. She is the author of Sidetracked (HBR Press, 2013) which examines how decisions are derailed.

Jian Han 

Jian Han is an associate professor of management and co-director of the Centre on China Innovation at CEIBS (the China-Europe International Business School). Cornell-educated, Han is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council.  Her work focuses on managing people especially in the context of fast emerging markets.

“If you focus too much on growth, you ignore the relationship side of the team, the softer side of people. Many companies are trying to adjust to this problem,” she observes.

Mona Hammami Hijazi

Former US President Jimmy Carter describes Hammami Hijaz as “a leading voice on global giving.” The author of The Giving World (Thinkers50, 2016), she is a director at the Office of Strategic Affairs, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court. Previously, she was a lead associate at the consulting firm Booz & Company and also worked as an economist with the International Monetary Fund and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. She has authored several articles and policy papers published by the IMF.

Maja Korica (@drkorica)

Croatian born Korica is an associate professor at Warwick Business School. Her research focuses on understanding the nuances of complex and rarely seen organizational settings, particularly at the top of organizational hierarchies, and has appeared in leading practitioner publications including MIT Sloan Management Review (“Staying in the know: overhauling your personal knowledge structure”, 2015). A recent study involved close observation of NHS trust chief executives to better understand their decision-making, and the nature of their everyday work.

Margarita Mayo (@margaritmayo;

Mayo is professor of leadership and organizational behaviour at IE Business School in Madrid. A Fulbright Alumni of Harvard University, her work has appeared in leading academic journals as well as international media. A research award winner at the Center for Creative Leadership, she was selected as one of the world’s next generation thought leaders in the Next Generation Business Handbook. Her forthcoming book looks at the shifting nature of authenticity in leadership roles.

Lauren Noël (@her_quest) & Christie Hunter Arscott (@chunterarscott;

Noël is managing director of QUEST, a global leadership institute for early career women. Her work focuses on engaging, advancing and inspiring women in the first decade of their careers.

Christie Hunter Arscott is a principal at QUEST. She is an expert on gender and generational strategies. Formerly deputy leader of Deloitte Consulting’s US Diversity & Inclusion Service Offering, Hunter Arscott broke new ground as one of the first Rhodes Scholars to pursue a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Oxford, where she researched women and gendered leadership styles.

They are the authors of  “What executives need to know about millennial women” (ICEDR, 2015).

Megan Reitz (@meganreitz1)

Reitz is a professor of leadership and dialogue, Hult Ashridge Executive Education. Her work focuses on the intersection of leadership, change, dialogue and mindfulness. She is the author of Dialogue in Organizations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Before joining Ashridge, Reitz was a consultant with Deloitte; surfed the dot-com boom with; and worked in strategy consulting for The Kalchas Group (now the strategic arm of Computer Science Corporation). Her groundbreaking research into the impact of mindfulness training (with Michael Chaskalson) has been featured in blogs for HBR and is the basis for the forthcoming book 10 Minutes to Change Your Mind.

Deborah Rowland (@deborahrowland;

Co-author of Sustaining Change: Leadership That Works (Wiley, 2008), Rowland has personally led change in major global organizations including Shell, Gucci Group, BBC Worldwide and PepsiCo. She also founded and grew a consulting firm that pioneered research in the field, and is currently the change coach to the executive board of the German company RWE. Her new book, Still Moving (Wiley, 2017), is based on research into the realities of leading change. She has a double first in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University and is a member of the Archbishop’s Review Group into leadership development in the Church of England.

Kate Sweetman 

Kate Sweetman is a founding principal at the consulting firm SweetmanCragun, and teaches at MIT’s Legatum Institute for Entrepreneurship.  A former editor at Harvard Business Review, she worked in Malaysia as director of research and curriculum at the Iclif Centre for Leadership and Governance, and authored a study of Asian Leadership. Sweetman’s book credits include The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead By (Harvard Business Press, 2009), coauthored with Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood. Her latest book, with Shane Cragun, is entitled Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016).

Amy Webb (@amywebb;

Amy Webb is an author, futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, a future forecasting and strategy firm that researches technology. She is a lecturer on emerging technology and media at Columbia University and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. Her third book, The Signals Are Talking (PublicAffairs, 2016) is about what the future holds––and what you can do about it in the present. Her TED talk, about the future of algorithms, has been viewed five million times and has been translated into 31 languages.

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